Jay Cheng
Jay ChengMilliner

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How did you become interested in millinery? Where and did you learn millinery?

I found Millinery by pure luck. I wanted to take a holiday in 2004 to go away. I was having some crisis, not happy with my marriage and my career. I decided to go to London. Not wanting to just spend my holiday treasure hunting in antique markets and car boot sale (I am a second hand freak), I decided to see if there is any short study course. I found the website of London College of Fashion and they offered a one-week course in hat making. That is the first time I saw the term millinery. At that time I just thought the word millinery sound romantic. So I enrolled and that became my first encounter with the craft.

On the first day of class I actually did have the feeling of romance! Standing in front of the school building I did feel 18 again… no work… just going to school everyday! I felt even better after the first day of school! I was charged with excitement, a new energy. Just like falling in love for the first time! Romantic, after all, is the perfect word to describe my first taste of millinery. I fell in love and wanted more. So I took a longer holiday in July the same year to attend the summer school at London College of Fashion. I also attended classes taught by Royal Milliner Rose Corey. This passion became so strong that I decided to spend all my time on millinery and decided to change my career. I was working as a fashion stylist in Hong Kong and wasn’t too happy with work. With this new found passion, I found new light for my creativity.

How long have you been a milliner for? Where else did you work? Who do you make hats for?

I did not really start doing serious work until July 2005. Although I really have a passion for millinery, I was a bit worried about getting work. It is not common for people in Hong Kong to wear hats. We wear fashion hats like baseball caps and sun hats and that’s all about it! It’s not common practice for ladies to wear hats to the races.

When I tell people I am a milliner, they have to look up the dictionary for the meaning of the word. If I make it simple by saying I am a hat designer, they sometimes ask me to make them a baseball cap!

I was a bit hesitant to go full time into millinery, so I started by creating cocktail hats and headdresses and set up my website. So that everytime people ask me what I do, instead of explaining, I give them my name card and invite them to visit my website.

Slowly the word got around and I began to get commission work. The website paid off. Although I still have not worked on a hat for the races, I am lucky enough to have started my career in millinery. My work includes concert head dresses for local pop singers, brides and fashion show headdresses. I am happy that I have found millinery .

Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

From everything, fashion magazines, art books, even ceiling fans!

What has been your most enjoyable commission?

Every one of them, because every commission is different and I learn new things every time.

How would you describe your style of hats?

I can’t really say what my style is. All commissions are very different, but I tend to work with quite a bit of free form structure.

What materials and techniques do you favor?

I try to work with materials that I can find in local supply. Since I do a lot of stage pieces, I can use a lot of different materials, plastics, hand bag materials and even metal and leather.

Any other interests?

After finding millinery, this became my only interest, because I still have a lot to learn.